Lead Counsel Picked in Airline Price-Fixing Litigation

Lead Counsel Picked in Airline Price-Fixing Litigation Photo: J. Albert Diaz/ALM

Lawyers from Hausfeld and Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy have snagged the co-lead counsel spots in more than 100 class actions alleging that four major airlines conspired to fix the prices of domestic fares.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly in the District of Columbia appointed Michael Hausfeld of Washington’s Hausfeld and Steve Williams, a partner at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy in Burlingame, California, to lead the litigation, according to an order on Thursday. She also accepted their proposed executive committee members: Elizabeth Cabraser of San Francisco’s Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein; Robert Kaplan, a partner at New York’s Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer; and Warren Burns of Burns Charest in Dallas.

Michael Hausfeld of Hausfeld.Diego M. Radzinschi

In their application, Hausfeld and Williams had emphasized a lean leadership team.

“It made sense to have a more focused smaller group that was comparable to the number of defendants in this case so that we could be more efficient and more precise in the work we do,” Williams said.

The judge asked both sides by Feb. 25 to submit a proposed filing schedule and ordered the new plaintiffs leadership team to come up with a “proposal for addressing the issue of managing plaintiffs’ fees and expenses in this litigation,” including how she could review costs.

The class actions, which were coordinated into an MDL on Oct. 13, allege that United Airlines Inc., Delta Air Lines Inc., American Airlines Inc. and Southwest Airlines Co. fixed prices for domestic airline tickets by limiting the seating capacity on flights. The cases allege antitrust violations under the federal Sherman Act.

The winning group, which has handled numerous air transportation antitrust cases before, beat out three competing leadership teams, including one by Los Angeles-based Quinn Emanuel Uquhart & Sullivan’s Stephen Neuwirth in New York and another by Patrick Coughlin at San Diego’s Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd and Jay Himes of New York’s Labaton Sucharow.

Williams said he anticipated working closely with the U.S. Justice Department, which has launched a civil investigation into the matter.

“If past experience is any indication, they will probably want to know before we engage in discovery and will likely want to at a minimum coordinate with us so they know what’s happening and we don’t get ahead of them,” he said.

Kollar-Kotelly is overseeing her first multidistrict litigation but in 2014 approved a settlement with the Justice Department that allowed American Airlines and US Airways to complete their $11 billion merger.

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